In the state of California, there are laws in place that require parents to provide financial support for their children – particularly during and after divorce. In many cases, the law assumes who the parents are; for example, when a child is born during a marriage, the mother’s husband is presumed to be the father.
In other cases, when a man lives with a child and the child’s mother, he is presumed to be the child’s father provided that he has demonstrated a commitment to the child. This can be true even if the man is not the child’s biological father.
Other circumstances require the parents to establish paternity.
Because California requires both parents to provide financial support for their children, it is important to establish paternity.
There are a number of ways that a family can establish paternity prior to or during a divorce case. The family may sign a voluntary declaration of paternity, or VDP, or the courts can establish paternity.
The simplest way for a family to declare paternity is by signing a VDP. If the mother and father are not married when the child is born, medical caregivers are required to record that information on the voluntary declaration of paternity form. When the mother and father sign the form, they legally acknowledge that they are both the child’s parents.
After the parents have signed the VDP, the father’s name can be added to the baby’s birth certificate. The father also becomes legally responsible for the child (along with the mother).
When there is no voluntary declaration of paternity in place, several people can ask the court for an order on paternity. These people include:
When a couple splits up, California law ensures that both parents provide financial support to the child or children involved. This includes paying child support.
If you bring a paternity dispute to the courts in San Bernardino, the courts have the authority to order genetic testing on the mother, the alleged father and the child.
The court may also order:
Either parent may dispute paternity at any time. Typically, all you need to do is submit to blood or DNA testing.
Because California courts do not accept private DNA tests, you must use a court-approved testing provider.
Perhaps most importantly, you should leave the children out of the dispute until you have definitive answers. Challenging paternity can be a difficult process for children, so in most cases, it’s best that they remain ignorant of the proceedings; this is for their own protection.
If you dispute parentage and you are incorrect, the court may go on to order child support, custody and other parental responsibilities.
If you dispute parentage and the DNA tests confirm that you are not the child’s father, you might not be held responsible for child support and other parental responsibilities. However, nobody can predict the way a judge will rule; this is particularly important to know if you have been living together as a family and the child has looked to you for care and support.
After disputing parentage with your ex, it’s important that you move on for the children’s benefit. Because paternity disputes can cause animosity and hard feelings, your attorney may recommend that you and your ex work with a mediator who can help settle your issues and disagreements.
If you need to establish or dispute paternity, it might be in your best interests to work with a San Bernardino establishment of paternity lawyer who understands how the court processes work and how the laws apply in your case.